Updated: Apr 5, 2020
Reasons I travel solo, and being a loner isn’t one of them:
I’ve met hundreds of people from across the globe. Solo travel absolutely doesn’t mean being alone, it’s more about constantly being open to meeting others. When I am traveling solo I chat with everyone. If I am having a beer at a bar 9/10 times the bartender will strike a conversation with me out of curiosity (and if he/she doesn’t, I sometimes initiate it). Or if on a bus the conversation starts with me genuinely asking something so simple like, “do you know what the next stop is?” The English throws the person off guard, he/she asks where I am from and then it spirals into at least a 30 minute chat. Guaranteed. We exchange social media handles and just like that a friendship has been formed. Recently while I was at a bar in Amsterdam waiting for a Dutch friend who I met in Florence in 2017 to arrive, Jesse, the bartender and I began chatting and quickly realized that we’d both be in South America in the winter. Fast forward two months and we’re both in South America trying to arrange a hike to do together. Or the Martens, the retired Canadian couple that sat behind me on my flight from Mexico City to Lima who I chatted with for an hour and ended up sharing an Uber to Miraflores (the area that we were staying in) and they've invited me to visit them in British Columbia, Canada. These encounters happen several times each day. When you’re alone people are not only super friendly but they’re also curious and welcoming. When I am traveling with friends we don’t usually branch out so these random meetings don’t present themselves.
Through solo travel and meeting people from almost every country in the world, I’ve become less ignorant. I have learned about more people and cultures than I can fathom. It wasn’t until I spent time in Turkey that I learned that Uzbekistan was a country (a country that borders Borat’s homeland Kazakastan ;)) when I met an Uzebeki student in Izmir. If I had been there with a friend I probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to speak with Mehmet. Side note: When I meet people who I like and trust I typically extend the offer that if they’re ever in California they’re more than welcome to stay with me (that is if I’m there), and they often reciprocate or even extend the offer first.
It’s forced me to be independent, confident and resilient. If you can travel alone you’re more independent than 98% of the world. You learn how to deal with the good and the bad without receiving sympathy or praise. If you miss a flight or your bus never arrives you’re forced to figure that shit out on your own. You don’t have anyone holding your hand and once figured out it will be an accomplishment worthy of some serious self praise. Or when you wind up with food poisoning and you’re alone, oh wait… that’s not so great.
When I’m alone I get to do what I want at whatever time I want. If I want to splurge on a meal, I do it. If I want to start my day at 5am or 11am I don't consult with anyone. If I want to eat at a specific restaurant or do a three day hike, I do it. I am forced to be the decisive decision maker.
I’ve become heaps more open minded. I’ve been in more weird situations than I can count and I've learned to embrace each one. A few months ago, a friend from college generously invited me to stay with her and her two Dutch roommates in Amsterdam (for as long as I wanted!). When I entered their home the three of them were just wearing robes and the walls were lined with paintings of orgys. Yes, you read that correctly. It was amazing. My first thoughts were: Where the heck am I? Will I leave a different person? Is Holland really this liberal? It was so cool and refreshing to experience their lifestyle and it was definitely a highlight of my three months in Europe. Also, while I stayed with them I slept in a closet which wound up being so cozy. I know you’re wondering… Did I do anything to get on their wall. The answer: No. That said, I did partake in a Radical Honesty meeting. That was also new.
It’s easier than you’d think. As long as you have your whits about you (most importantly), you’re open and kind solo travel is a breeze.
Feel free to comment with any questions!